So I was delighted when Ed Wray gave me a copy of "The Brewer's Tale" by Frank Priestley. The author started at Tennant in Sheffield in 1959, before it became part of Whitbread. He then moved elsewhere in the Whitbread empire.
These inside views are so handy in fleshing out brewing records and analyses. I just wish there were more of them. Priestley usefully gives a brief sketch of the range of beers produced by Tennant.
“An important part of my duties as laboratory assistant was the analysis of the finished products. Samples were taken from every brew and tested for colour, clarity and gravity. At that time, Tennant's produced four draught been and five bottled beers. The draught beers were: Bitter Beer (BB), Best Bitter Beer (BBB), Rock Ale, which was a dark, mild ale and Queen's Ale. Rock Ale probably originated at the Nottingham Brewery (see later). The Nottingham cellars had been excavated out of the solid rock on which the old town stood. Beers stored in the cellars were known as Rock Ales. Queen's Ale was a premium draught beer. It was a pale, hoppy beer with a good body. Its perfect balance of malty sweetness and the bitterness of the finest hops ensured that it was the best draught beer that I have ever tasted (and that is saying something).”
"The Brewer's Tale" by Frank Priestley, 2010, page 11.
Here’s an odd thing. There are plenty of analyses of Tennant’s beers in the Whitbread Gravity Book. Which I would have expected. They seem to have had an unhealthy interest in the beers of breweries they later bought. But there are only analyses of bottled beers, none for draught. Fortunately, a couple were analysed by Which? magazine.
|Tennant draught beers 1960|
|Year||Beer||Style||Price per pint d||OG||FG||ABV||App. Atten-uation|
|1960||Best Bitter||Pale Ale||16||1038.3||1006||4.20||84.20%|
|1960||Queen's Ale||Pale Ale||18||1041.7||1009||4.30||79.38%|
|Which Beer Report, 1960, pages 171 - 173.|
I’m very pleased to see Queen’s Ale in there after Priestley’s high praise of it. My guess is that it was a new beer introduced in 1952 or 1953. The name is a bit of a giveaway. It’s not as strong as I had expected from his description. You’ll note that it’s barely stronger than the Best Bitter.
I’ll have to guess about the other two beers. My guess would be that both Bitter and Rock Mild had an OG in the low 1030s. And that the three Bitters were probably parti-gyled.
I would have ended there, but I did manage to dig up some more information. About the Nottingham Brewery’s beer. It looks like Rock Mild really did come from them:
|Nottingham Brewery beers|
|Year||Beer||Style||Price per pint d||package||OG||FG||ABV||App. Atten-uation|
|1931||Rock Bitter Ale||Pale Ale||bottled||1036||1009.6||3.41||73.26%|
|1931||Rock Mild Ale||Mild||bottled||1037||1011.5||3.35||69.25%|
|1931||Best Draught Ale||Strong Ale||8||draught||1054||1008.5||5.94||84.26%|
|Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/001.|
Note how the bottled version OGs are 5 degrees lower than the draught equivalent. That was pretty typical between the wars.
I do find it odd that they should have adopted the Mild Ale of a brewery they had taken over. Especially such a core beer as their Mild, which would have been their biggest seller. I can only assume that Rock Mild had a good reputation. Or Tennant liked the branding and just applied it to their own beer.
Bottled beers next time.